“Six of One” is the ultimate ‘girls’ night in’…with the six wives of Henry VIII. It’s the most fun you can have with your nightdress on! Join Dolly, the Tudor-obsessed heroine of “Six of One”, on a Yellow Brick Road journey to the alternate reality of an all-girl Tudor court.
It all begins when Dolly loses consciousness on the eve of her marriage to the six-times- divorced Harry. She awakens in the company of the Tudor women she’s studied all her life. They have a mission to accomplish, and Dolly may be just the girl who can help them do it.
As a warm-up to her life-changing interview with the six wives of Henry VIII, Dolly gets to dish with lots of the other fascinating females of the Tudor era. She learns things she never guessed about the Princes in the Tower from their sister, Elizabeth of York…Henry VIII’s mom. She talks sex with Henry’s sisters and scholarship with his daughters. She even gossips with the help, since Kat Ashley and Bess of Hardwicke are among the ladies on hand.
Of course the heart of the story is in Dolly’s interview with the six wives of Henry VIII. It turns out there’s something to each of the wives’ stories that’s been held back all this time. You won’t believe what really happened…or will you?
“Six of One” offers no tragedy, no excuses, and no apologies. It does have lots of broad humor, not to mention tons of puns. And—for a change—a happy ending
Top Ten Favorite Word from the Tudor Era and Six of One
by JoAnn Spears
Bumroll: An object shaped like a life preserver that sit around the hips and makes skirts flare out. Yes, there was a time that women actually wanted their hips to look bigger. A bumroll causes Dolly, the heroine of ‘Six of One’ and a Jazzerciser, more than a little bit of consternation. But not as much as the next favorite word does.
Farthingale: A conical fashion accessory made of rope, whalebone, or wicker. It shaped the cinched-waist, flared-bottom gowns typical of the Elizabethan era. The farthingale is said to have originated in Spain. ‘Six of One’s heroine, Dolly, probably wished it had stayed there.
Dr.Butts: Okay, it is a name, and not a word, but it is still a favorite. The physician of the unfortunate last name was Henry VIII’s second-best physician. When Anne Boleyn was ill with Sweating Sickness at Hever Castle, he was the man Henry VIII sent along to look after her. In ‘Six of One’, Anne Boleyn opines that ‘Butts was an ass.’ What everyone else thought about Butts remains a mystery.
Codpiece: A sort of Renaissance Speedo for external wear on dry land. Many Renaissance dandies can be seen flaunting quite decorative ones in period portraiture. In ‘Six of One’, Anne Boleyn confesses that ‘codpieces were all my sister Mary was interested in.’ Fans of ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ will likely disagree.
Duenna: A female chaperone responsible for protecting and guiding a young, single lady. Indispensable when one is a young single lady being sent to foreign lands as marriage pawn without benefit of actual family members present. Katharine of Aragon would have had one when she arrived as a young princess in England to marry into the Tudor family.
Flamina: A nickname, actually, for Mary Fleming, one of the quartet of ladies in waiting to Mary Queen of Scots known to history as the Four Maries. In ‘Six of One’, Dolly considers it a privilege to receive fashion advice fromFlamina. One wonders if the guidance of a fashionista like Flamina might have saved Queen Elizabeth I from the ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ look she went in for in her old age.
Caquetoire: Literally a ‘conversation chair’, in which a woman could comfortably sit to chat with other women. The caquetoire chair, often elaborately carved, had wide, bowed arms and specially-shaped or splayed seats that were designed to accommodate the voluminous, flaring skirts of the Tudor period. In ‘Six of One’, the heroine, Dolly, gets to sit in one of these antique beauties while she hoists a few with Kat Ashley, Queen Elizabeth I’s childhood governess.
Rushes: Dried grasses and herbs strewn on floors in the days when there were no bathrooms and most people pooped and peed in place, so to speak. When a strewing of rushes had absorbed all of the odors it could, the home was vacated and the old rushes swept out and replaced with new. The author of ‘Six of One’ is also a nurse. She hopes her lack of filter about bodily functions does not cause offense.
Wimple: As worn by Henry VIII’s grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, it was an early Tudor era fashion favorite. It was a combination of veil and mantle, akin to a modern-day burqa or to an old-fashioned nun’s veil. The author of ‘Six of One’, in addition to being a nurse, is also a 1960s Catholic School survivor. She experienced firsthand the sight of wimples on nuns who probably also dated back to the early Tudor era.
Arse: Bess of Hardwick figuratively takes a pot shot at Henry VIII’s big fat one in Act II of ‘Six of One’. We’re sure the majority of Henry’s wives would approve.
Excerpt from “Six of One”: Chapter Nineteen, Of Real Estate Celestial and Terrestrial
It was hard to imagine the woman who was facing me at any kind of rest at all. Hers was not the tremulousness that enervated Jane; the edginess that snapped, crackled, and popped from Elizabeth; or the self-fueled neurosis of Arabella. This woman radiated energy that was pure, simple, boundless, and efficient—it was as if she had a nuclear reactor under her farthingale.
“What, still in your nightdress, Dolly? You are quite the slugabed!” the woman said. “Perhaps I am a slugabed, but I’m very properly attired for a honeymoon, don’t you think?” I asked, in what I hoped was a roguish manner. (You have to be very careful with roguish when you are over forty.)
“I should say that you are, with nothing but a nightdress on!” the woman answered. “Most of our guests request panties as soon as they get here. Of course, I don’t feel the need for them, myself.” At first, I admired how well this woman did roguish, but then I remembered that panties did not hit the fashion scene until well after the Elizabethan era.
“And I notice that you are still fixed on that honeymoon with your Harry, Dolly. You won’t be, once the wives have declaimed themselves. Or perhaps you will be. I have learned the hard way never to underestimate human frailty or human stupidity. After all, we women of the court are all still here, aren’t we? Each of the guests we have entertained here over the centuries was an opportunity, a squandered opportunity. Six wives! You would think that between them, or should I say amongst them, they could get it right.”
I would have cast my vote for amongst, but was unable to get a word in edgewise.
“Six fools!” the woman continued. “Like so many cats in a sack! Squalling, clawing, fur flying, wound licking, but not one iota of effectual sense! So here they stay. Here we stay.”
I had learned from the younger Tudor contingent what the mission of the women here was. What they hadn’t told me was exactly how or why the ladies who were here came to be here, and it was something I wanted to know. I was sure it would be useful information to have. It might keep me from putting my foot in my mouth and spare the bedpost any more abuse because of my blunders. And if the six wives were as cantankerous as this woman claimed they were, it might spare me some abuse as well.
“There’s not much any of them can tell you about success at matrimony; you ought to listen to me, Dolly, dear,” she went on. “I’ve had four husbands: one or two missteps along the way, but success overall and no regrets. My head stayed on my shoulders, and my feet stayed squarely on the ground—of which I had plenty; I saw to that.”
Does she mean plenty of feet or plenty of ground? I wondered. On the other hand, perhaps she meant plenty of feet of ground. Maybe she meant plenty of square feet, but that would surely have made purchasing shoes difficult. A woman as enterprising as this one seemed to be probably dealt more in acres, if not miles, than square feet, and the silken espadrilles that peeked out from beneath her gown appeared to house well-shaped feet. The woman above the feet was likewise well-shaped and not at all unattractive—if you like the spiky type.
“I needed the ground, you see, for my building,” she explained. “Bricks and mortar, my dear, bricks and mortar—the best insurance for a woman’s security and a woman’s standing. A woman needs a place to keep her people and her possessions safe and secure under her weather eye.”
Under her weather thumb is more like it, I thought. This building fool could only be Bess of Hardwicke, a woman whose name is seldom seen in print without the word “redoubtable” in front of it. I wondered if anyone ever called her redoubtable to her face. I redoubted it.
About the Author
JoAnn Spears spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether she wanted to major in English or History in college. Life stepped in, and she wound up with a Master’s Degree in Nursing instead. A twenty-five year nursing career didn’t extinguish that early interest in books and history. It did however stoke a decidedly gallows sense of humor.
The story of the six wives of Henry VIII was JoAnn’s favorite piece of history. She read the classic variations and the feminist variations, the tragic spins and the vindicating spins. She witnessed the success of the pop culture, soft-core Tudor offerings of recent vintage. It occurred to her that the one thing that hadn’t been brought to a full length novel about the Tudors was a gallows sense of humor. The Tudors certainly qualified for it, and JoAnn had plenty to spare.
The first ‘real’ book JoAnn ever read was “The Wizard of Oz”. She returned to the Yellow Brick Road for inspiration for a new kind of Tudor novel, and “Six of One” was born.
“Six of One” was begun in JoAnn’s native New Jersey. It was wrapped up in her new Smoky Mountain home in northeast Tennessee, where she is pursuing a second career as a writer. She has, however, obtained a Tennessee nursing license because a) you never stop being a nurse and b) her son Bill thinks she should be sensible and not quit her day job.
While “Six of One” is a different kind of historical fiction novel, JoAnn is a downright stereotypical lady author. She admits to all of the cats, flower beds, needlework, and obsessive devotion to Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott that you’d expect.
Giveaway: 10 print copies Six of One, a Tudor Riff by JoAnn Spears open to US Shipping
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